Honesty 2016

At the beginning of this year, I skipped the typical resolutions and, instead, decided to choose a word I wanted to live by for 2016.

I wound up on "honesty"a supremely challenging word for me but which, as I look back on now, was far more beneficial than I could have imagined.  

I learned many things along the way, but the most poignant was how being honest forced me to live and be an honest version of myself.  This, of course, is not to say I have been lying about who I am. Rather that (as I think everybody tends to do to some extent) I edit bits and parts of myself depending upon to whom I speak.  

But I stopped doing that in a number of big ways this year, and while it was terrifying and difficult, the results I encountered have been something I've been reflecting on for some time.

It started just being more honest about "little" things: if I had to back out of a planned outing, saying it was due to my chronic illness or not feeling well, instead of covering up for it in some way or another. I worked on being more open with people close to me, trying to express a little bit more of my thoughts and my self than I normally would. I no longer said "I'm fine" if I wasn't, worked very hard not to say "That's okay" if it isn't, and generally tried to be more forthcoming.

As this progressed, and I grew more familiar with living more honestly, I realized it was about far more than being honest for/to other people. I had thought being honest would only be a pathway for people to get to know be better, understand more things. And while it most certainly was, the biggest thing I took away from it was the freedom it gave to myself. Being open and vulnerable showed me exactly how "comfortably" I had lived for so longwhich isn't a bad thing. It is self-survival and protection, an absolutely necessary for all people and me during that time. Before this year, I did not have the skills and the growth and the support which allowed me to jump into all of this; I have been working toward this for years. 

I thought, by the end of the year, maybe I'd be less afraid of being vulnerable and have a desire to be more honest with people. This might be true to some degree; I want to continue trying to be honest and it is still more terrifying than not. But what I never expected was to be more OK with me. Yes, most people accepted me and it feels AMAZING and, yes, some didn't really and that hurts--but, regardless of these outcomes, I had begun to live a truer version of myself. And, in doing so, I have found more peace within myselfwith who I amthan I could have ever expected. 

It's like it removed the question of it all. Can I still be loved if I am still me? If I say what I think and feel? And this is the answer: yes. And, also: no. Other peoples' love and acceptance has given me so much, but there are some who have had trouble accepting who I've become and what I believe. But now I don't have to be curious about them anymore, I don't have to wonder. It feels backwards but living honestly has helped me to  see how sad it ishow it is about them and not me. I has made me less afraid of myself and more capable of telling them I am proud of who I have become.

This little word has set me free in many ways, many of which I had absolutely no idea how, or to the extent, it could. But credit does also go to those who have not only let me speak, but also heard me. Who have understood my fear. Who saw my vulnerability under comments/texts/words that  most people would not realize were so fragile and connected to me, and met them with caring hands. It's because of your love, which continues to helps teach me to love myself, that I have the courage to keep living an honest life long past 2016.

#Booknits: THE GIRL BEFORE

Many moons ago, my fantabulous friend, Rena Olsen, wrote a book. A really good book. So good that you've probably heard of it at some point or another and, if you haven't, then this is me making you hear about it and suggesting you go read it. 

  This book! THE GIRL BEFORE!

  This book! THE GIRL BEFORE!

I'm going to take a brief moment and say that I'm lucky enough to know a lot of really cool people. Many of which happen to be really cool authors. All of them hardworking, generous, brilliant, and kind—and Rena fits all those descriptors and then some. 

When her book came out, I wanted to celebrate with her somehow. But being  miles away made that a bit difficult (at least in the traditional sense). So, instead, I knitted her a gift. If I couldn't be there in person to tell her how proud and excited and thrilled I was for her, then maybe every time she saw the Ruffled Scarf I made, that could be the next best thing!

I have to add, I'm so proud of the yarn I was stubborn enough to find. It's difficult to see here, but it's black with flicks of red in it and matches her book cover!

I have to add, I'm so proud of the yarn I was stubborn enough to find. It's difficult to see here, but it's black with flicks of red in it and matches her book cover!

Luckily I got the scarf sent to her in time for her book release which I, sadly, can't say about this blog post. But I digress:

THE GIRL BEFORE is a truly unique book, written in the alternating timelines of "Then" and "Now". It follows Claraa woman abruptly taken from her home, husband, and daughtersand is forced to confront the possibility that her life might actually be part of something far more sinister than she realized. 

Aside from the great storytelling (which Rena is amaaaazing at. Trust me, I've been lucky enough to read a number of her drafts and short stories), THE GIRL BEFORE also deals with the important (and difficult) topics of human trafficking, abuse, and trauma. However, as a psychologist (and just an all-around compassionate person) Rena tackles these issues with equal honesty and regard. Balancing the need to give these topics the candor they need and "deserve", while also respecting them as a storyteller. 

I know there are many other summaries that can better explain THE GIRL BEFORE's synopsis. However, I want to impress how it is not only a great book, but also an important read in compassion, gleaning the complexities of abuse, and shining light on the real, present threat of human trafficking. 

Simply, it is a unique, poignant story crafted by an exceptionally kind and generous person. 

The aforementioned awesome author with the aforementioned ruffle scarf.

The aforementioned awesome author with the aforementioned ruffle scarf.

Be proud of yourself, my friend. <3

- Sarah

If you, or anyone you know, may be suffering from any of the aforementioned issues, please click on the links provided, as well as consider how therapy may help. 

National Human Trafficking Resource Center
1 (888) 373-7888
SMS: 233733 (Text "HELP" or "INFO")

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
1 (800) 799-7233 (SAFE)
For the deaf and hard of hearing: 1 (800) 787-3224 (TTY)

Lots of people take pictures of themselves in the kitchen with good books, right?

Lots of people take pictures of themselves in the kitchen with good books, right?

Why I Love St. Patrick's Day

For many a'year I've been wanting to try to explain why St. Patrick's Day is my favorite holiday (note: this title is often shared with Christmas), but knew I couldn't do it justice.

This year is no exception, but I figured what the hell; I would try it anyway.

People who don't know me well usually react one way when I freak out about St. Patrick's Day every March: a joking elbow to my ribs and eyebrows raised while giving me a slightly obnoxious grin, "You like to 'celebrate', huh?" And while I'm not entirely sure I've ever refused a shot of whiskey in my life, this couldn't be further from the real reasons, which are threefold.

Aon! I don't have an exact date when I started recovery from my eating disorder, but I mark it by this month. The first March, when I had decided to get better and was seeking some intense treatment, I (while walking into the grocery store, no less) was suddenly struck with the nearness of everything. It was like I had gone through so many years where I didn't even realize how awesome March was and then suddenly, here it was in front of me. Fresh air, vigor, and hope.

Nine years later and every time March rolls around, I feel the exact same way. Rejuvenated and unstoppable.

Dó! There was a long, long time where I didn’t like myself (understatement), a number of traits in particular. But as I began working through things, I was able to see that a lot of those traits aligned with those from this really beautiful, charming, and magical heritage of mine. And maybe that meant parts of me were beautiful, charming and a bit magical, too.

For instance, I’ve always been a bit loud and I can’t remember a time (unless I was a wee lass) where that didn’t bother me. It always seemed to happen without my noticing it and I could never understand why I couldn’t keep my voice at a normal human decimal range. Most of my life was spent overcompensating and becoming perfectly and acceptably quiet. But now I realize my loudness always comes from an exuberance of being around people I love, of being wholly happy in the moment, of being so overcome with joyous contentment that I have to get it out some way or another or I would just break apart. Of giving back, I guess. So, while it’s not necessarily the ‘gift of gab’, there are very few quiet Irishmen I’ve come across…

My temper was another thing. Anger was one of the “Bad” emotions: it was scary, it could make me say things that were unmeasured that maybe no one could love me for, it was often explosive, uncontrollable, and powerful. All of which can be frightening to me. And yet, I still happily remember the first time I let myself be angry for the first time after 10 years of my disorder: I was playing hockey, something pissed me off and, rather than stewing on the bench like usual, I skated over and all of the sudden I just broke the shit out of my stick across the boards. This huge flare of emotion and it startled me, and it startled everyone on the bench, too. But no body thought of me any differently and I still have that broken stick saved as a reminder.

Regardless, my temper can still get me into trouble and I try to keep it in check but, usually, when I am all Irish fire it’s because I’m passionate about something. And passion in life is very important to me— even if it’s about beer league hockey.

Stubbornness is a big one. I am irritatingly stubborn. After one of the daily occurrences where I had done something that prompted someone to comment on it, I responded with “I’m not stubborn, I’m just capable.” Regardless, I think I’ve always liked this about me. I know this trait directly saved me from my eating disorder because I dug my heels in and just decided I was going to get better.

I think this is why I catch myself saying, “I’m Irish” a lot these days. Because I’ve not only been able to accept the aforementioned, but because they also have become some my favorite things about myself. And that’s really really cool to me. To now love things I used to hate. To think that a bit of me might belong to this island of magical, charming, spirited people.

Trí. I love St. Patrick’s Day because it’s like a gift. It’s like a day just for me. Where my mind is quiet. And this one is the hardest to describe of three. No matter how many ways I’ve written it down, worked it out in my head, or tried to phrase it, it is falls frustratingly short. But here goes: the rest of my love for it is about being alive. Because, when you shake off all the other shit, what a glorious thing it is. To be alive. And some days I run and run across the earth as fast as I can, not caring how far or fast I go. And some days I sit on the back porch during a thunderstorm and watch how lightning can be different colors. Some days I breathe in this great, big earth and myself and the people and creatures and things I love so dearly in the world.

But then there’s this one day—this one really special day—where I turn up Irish music really, really loud and dance and dance, and I look around the room at, or think about, my most favorite people. And I am the loudest I have ever been; in laughter and in words and in spirit. And yes, usually then I will pour myself a shot of whiskey and say my favorite Irish prayer because… God… isn’t it a wonder just to be alive.

Just Sarah (Addendum)

The other day I wrote about having to tell a potential new friend I couldn't go on a 6 mile hike because of my health and how, for whatever reason, that was really difficult for me to do. I knew it was a passing emotion and usually I probably would have found excuses for it and what not. But I felt it and I honored that so gold star!

However, a couple dear friends reminded me of something very important:

Everyone has limitations. They are all different. Some may be obvious, some aren't. Some maybe persistent while others may change. And while, yes, limitations due to chronic illness are tough and unique, that doesn't change the fact that everyone struggles against his/her own self in some way or another.

So, I'm glad I was open (#Honesty2016, y'all!) because I realized that sometimes I focus so much on explaining what life with chronic illness can be like that I forget how we're all still a lot the same.

And, also, what else could make me feel more like Just Sarah than good friends. <3

"Each has their sufferings." <3

Just Sarah

I moved across the country 9 months ago. It has been a wonderful adventure and I am happy here, but damn is it hard to make friends as an adult.

("Adult", she types, while wearing her Grinch pajamas).

I have always had trouble making friends, honestly. People seem to have a hard time believing this because I tend to come across as an extrovert, or because I'm "likable" (as some kind acquaintances have reassured me). However, for whatever reason, I've always struggled with it.

I'm sure part of it has to do with my revolutionary communication skills; I'm just a hair below "Plants" in that area (but well above "Inanimate Objects" thankyouverymuch). As well as my tendency to keep things private. My difficulty with, and sensitivity to, vulnerability, skews things I think. i.e. from what people have explained, I tend to think I have been very open when, as it turns out, I haven't revealed nearly as much as I thought. And being an extroverted introvert doesn't quite move things along either. I prefer being alone, I *need* to be alone to recharge with my chronic illnesses, and I'm pretty sure I have a bit of social anxiety (none of which may be obvious to most people).

Back home, it took me 10 years but I made some really amazing friends that I was OK and excited to leave my house to hang out with! So I have been trying to put myself out there a bit more here and meet new people. Because the friends I do have are incredible, and I do enjoy being connected to people even though I'm like, 85% hermit.

Anyway, a girl I met here invited me to go hiking with her next weekend and, aside from my typical anxiety, I am excited! I love hikes. I love nature and adventure. This girl is hilarious and kind and smart and one of the good ones.

But, then I found out that the hike is 6 miles long... I can't hike 6 miles. I can't walk 6 miles. I can barely walk 1.

On a whole, I feel I've adjusted to my chronic illnesses well. I'm respecting my limitations, sometimes I can even appreciate them. And I'm not ashamed of my illnesses by any means, but when I found out the hike was 6 miles, I broke down into big crocodile tears while sitting on my couch.

I know this girl would be totally understanding of my limits. I know all I would have to say is, "I'm not sure I can hike that far" or even go further and explain why. And she would happily find us another, shorter route and it all would be good.

But I don't want to tell her. I don't want to tell her because it's been nice being here and having people see me outside of my illnesses. Of them not knowing. Of feeling well enough I can come across as a somewhat typical 30 year-old extroverted introvert with communication skills that rival ferns. Of feeling like I'm Just Sarah and not Sarah Who Has to Weigh Every Single Thing She Does Every Single Day  Or Else.

So, I don't know. I don't know where I was going with this. If I was really going anywhere at all. At least, no where other than it makes me sad. It makes me sad that I can't just go on a 6 mile hike like most people might be able to. It makes me sad that I have to weigh out these conversations with people. It makes me sad that—even though it's OK I have these illnesses, that I am lucky in so many ways, that I CAN go hike—I'm a different Sarah than I used to be.

And, don't get me wrong, I like who I am now. I really do. And it will be better tomorrow. I will process it, I will be able to tell her of my limitations. And it will be a great hike with a potential new friend.

But, tonight, I want to pretend—for a little bit longer—that I'm Just Sarah.